Conservation Reserve Program, 34883-34886 [2015-14988]

Download as PDF tkelley on DSK3SPTVN1PROD with NOTICES Federal Register / Vol. 80, No. 117 / Thursday, June 18, 2015 / Notices determined necessary to prevent the spread of the pest or disease, or requiring the objects to be accompanied by a permit issued by the Secretary prior to movement. The USDA’s Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service (APHIS) administers the regulations to implement the PPA. Citrus greening, also known as Huanglongbing disease of citrus, is considered to be one of the most serious citrus diseases in the world. Citrus greening is a bacterial disease that attacks the vascular system of host plants. This bacterial pathogen can be transmitted by grafting and, under laboratory conditions, by parasitic plants. The pathogen can also be transmitted by two insect vectors in the family Psyllidae, one of which is Diaphorina citri Kuwayama, the Asian citrus psyllid (ACP). ACP can also cause economic damage to citrus in groves and nurseries by direct feeding. Both adults and nymphs feed on young foliage, depleting the sap and causing galling or curling of leaves. High populations feeding on a citrus shoot can kill the growing tip. Under the regulations in ‘‘Subpart— Citrus Greening and Asian Citrus Psyllid’’ (7 CFR 301.76 through 301.76– 11), APHIS restricts the interstate movement of regulated articles from quarantined areas to control the artificial spread of citrus greening and ACP to noninfested areas of the United States. The regulations contain requirements that involve information collection activities, including a compliance agreement, limited permit, Federal certificate, recordkeeping, labeling statement, the application of a tag to the consignee’s waybill, 72-hour inspection notification, and cancellation of certificates, permits, and compliance agreements. We are asking the Office of Management and Budget (OMB) to approve our use of these information collection activities for an additional 3 years. The purpose of this notice is to solicit comments from the public (as well as affected agencies) concerning our information collection. These comments will help us: (1) Evaluate whether the collection of information is necessary for the proper performance of the functions of the Agency, including whether the information will have practical utility; (2) Evaluate the accuracy of our estimate of the burden of the collection of information, including the validity of the methodology and assumptions used; (3) Enhance the quality, utility, and clarity of the information to be collected; and VerDate Sep<11>2014 16:53 Jun 17, 2015 Jkt 235001 (4) Minimize the burden of the collection of information on those who are to respond, through use, as appropriate, of automated, electronic, mechanical, and other collection technologies; e.g., permitting electronic submission of responses. Estimate of burden: The public reporting burden for this collection of information is estimated to average 0.12 hours per response. Respondents: Commercial nurseries/ operations in U.S. States or U.S. Territories quarantined for citrus greening or ACP. Estimated annual number of respondents: 621. Estimated annual number of responses per respondent: 23. Estimated annual number of responses: 13,882. Estimated total annual burden on respondents: 1,785 hours. (Due to averaging, the total annual burden hours may not equal the product of the annual number of responses multiplied by the reporting burden per response.) All responses to this notice will be summarized and included in the request for OMB approval. All comments will also become a matter of public record. Done in Washington, DC, this 12th day of June 2015. Kevin Shea, Administrator, Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service. [FR Doc. 2015–15005 Filed 6–17–15; 8:45 am] BILLING CODE 3410–34–P DEPARTMENT OF AGRICULTURE Commodity Credit Corporation Farm Service Agency Conservation Reserve Program Commodity Credit Corporation, Farm Service Agency, USDA. ACTION: Record of decision. AGENCY: This notice presents a summary of the Record of Decision (ROD) regarding the alternative selected for implementation from the Supplemental Programmatic Environmental Impact Statement (SPEIS) for the Conservation Reserve Program (CRP). CRP is a voluntary program that supports the implementation of long-term conservation measures designed to improve the quality of ground and surface waters, control soil erosion, and enhance wildlife habitat on environmentally sensitive agricultural land. The Farm Service Agency (FSA) administers CRP on behalf of the SUMMARY: PO 00000 Frm 00005 Fmt 4703 Sfmt 4703 34883 Commodity Credit Corporation (CCC). The ROD was signed on April 17, 2015, but will not be implemented for at least 30 days following publication of this notice. DATES: Effective Date: July 20, 2015. ADDRESSES: The CRP SPEIS, including appendices and this ROD, are available on the FSA Environmental Compliance Web site at: http://www.fsa.usda.gov/ FSA/webapp?area=home&subject= ecrc&topic=ep-cd. More detailed information on CRP is available from FSA’s Web site at: http://www.fsa.usda. gov/FSA/webapp?area=home&subject= copr&topic=crp. Requests for copies of the Final SPEIS and this ROD may be obtained from Nell Fuller at Nell.Fuller@wdc.usda.gov, or mail, Nell Fuller, USDA FSA, Mail Stop 0501, 1400 Independence Ave. SW., Washington, DC 20250–0501. FOR FURTHER INFORMATION CONTACT: Nell Fuller, National Environmental Compliance Manager; phone: (202) 720– 6853. SUPPLEMENTARY INFORMATION: Background FSA prepared a Final SPEIS for CRP and a Notice of Availability was published in the Federal Register on December 23, 2014. On behalf of the CCC, FSA provides CRP participants with rental payments and cost-share assistance under contracts that extend from 10 to 15 years. CCC funding for CRP is governed by acreage caps set by the Agricultural Act of 2014, Public Law 113–79 (2014 Farm Bill). Technical support is provided by: • USDA Natural Resources Conservation Service; • USDA National Institute for Food and Agriculture; • U.S. Forest Service; • State forestry agencies; • Local soil and water conservation districts; and • Other non-federal providers of technical assistance. Producers can enroll in CRP using one of two procedures: (1) Offer lands for General Sign-up enrollment during specific sign-up periods and compete with other offers nationally, based upon the Environmental Benefits Index; or (2) Enroll environmentally desirable land to be devoted to certain conservation practices (CPs) under CRP Continuous Sign-up provisions, if certain eligibility requirements are met, or by enrolling eligible land under the Conservation Reserve Enhancement Program (CREP), a federal-state partnership under CRP. As of September 2014, there were nearly 25.5 million acres enrolled in the E:\FR\FM\18JNN1.SGM 18JNN1 34884 Federal Register / Vol. 80, No. 117 / Thursday, June 18, 2015 / Notices CRP: 19.7 million acres under General Sign-up and 5.7 million acres under Continuous Sign-up, including 1.3 million acres in CREP and 0.3 million acres in the Farmable Wetlands Program, a program under CRP. Under the Proposed Action, as defined in the SPEIS, FSA would implement changes to the CRP resulting from the 2014 Farm Bill, which extends the enrollment authority for the CRP to 2018, as well as other discretionary measures designed to improve the functionality and conservation benefits of CRP. The CRP SPEIS tiers from the CRP Supplemental Environmental Impact Statement and associated ROD completed in 2010. The SPEIS analyzed the impacts associated with implementing the changes to CRP and in developing new regulations. The No Action Alternative (continuation of current CRP to include those nondiscretionary changes required by the 2014 Farm Bill) was also analyzed, and provides a management and environmental baseline. Proposed Action, with one exception and one clarification. The exception is that authorizing emergency haying or grazing on CP 25, ‘‘Rare and Declining Habitat,’’ during severe drought conditions will not be implemented. This decision was made after comparing the overall environmental impacts and other relevant information, including feedback received, with regard to the reasonable alternatives considered in the CRP SPEIS. The clarification was that FSA intends to use Primary Nesting Season (PNS) provisions that are currently in place to clarify the language provided in the 2014 Farm Bill for birds that are economically significant, in significant decline, or conserved in accordance with Federal or State law (see 16 U.S.C. 3833(b)(5)(B)). FSA will continue to work with the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service to address any need to amend PNS dates. The following briefly describes the purpose and need for the proposed programmatic changes and the alternatives considered. The Decision After reviewing comments from interested individuals and other State and Federal agencies, FSA decided to implement changes to CRP resulting from the 2014 Farm Bill, which extends the enrollment authority for CRP to 2018, and discretionary measures designed to improve the functionality and conservation benefits of CRP, as well as other changes described in the Purpose and Need for the Proposed Action The purpose of the Proposed Action is to implement programmatic changes to the CRP resulting from the 2014 Farm Bill and other discretionary program provisions. The need for the Proposed Action is to fulfill the FSA’s responsibility to administer CRP while improving CRP’s functionality and maintaining its conservation benefits. Alternatives Considered Some elements of the 2014 Farm Bill are non-discretionary, meaning implementation is mandatory and specifically required by the 2014 Farm Bill. As FSA has no decision-making authority over these non-discretionary aspects of the 2014 Farm Bill, they are assessed in the SPEIS as part of the No Action Alternative. Other elements of the 2014 Farm Bill provide overall guidance, but details of implementation are left to FSA’s discretion. These discretionary aspects of the 2014 Farm Bill form the Proposed Action Alternative. In addition, as described in the Proposed Action Alternative, FSA proposes to implement additional discretionary measures for targeting enrollment and to expand the flexibility of emergency haying and grazing. Overview of Changes to CRP From the 2014 Farm Bill The changes in the 2014 Farm Bill that are administrative in nature, would not result in major changes to the administration of CRP, or have been addressed in other environmental assessments and eliminated from detailed analysis, are described in the first table. A summary of the proposed changes to CRP and how the changes are addressed in the SPEIS as part of the No Action Alternative or Proposed Action Alternative are described in the second table. LIST FROM DETAILED ANALYSIS Provision Description Maximum Enrollment .......................................... Farmable Wetlands Program .............................. Reduces maximum enrollment gradually from 32 to 24 million acres by fiscal year 2017. Creates a permanent program from the pilot program established by 2008 Farm Bill and sets enrollment cap at 750,000 acres. Reduces payment authority to $10 million, allows for incentive payments. Provides contract termination opportunity in 2015 for contracts that have been in place for at least 5 years, with exceptions. Requires rental payment reduction of at least 25 percent. No payment reduction for beginning farmers or ranchers for grazing. Provides authority for $33 million to facilitate transfer of land from retiring or retired owners to beginning or socially disadvantaged farmers or ranchers, or military veteran farmers or ranchers. Allows annual grazing for control of invasive plants. Allows for intermittent and seasonal use of vegetative buffer practices incidental to agricultural production on adjacent lands. Tree Thinning ...................................................... Early Termination of Contracts ........................... Managed Harvesting, Prescribed and Routine Grazing Payment Reduction. Transition Option ................................................ Prescribed Grazing Frequency ........................... Intermittent and Seasonal Use ........................... PROPOSED CHANGES TO CRP tkelley on DSK3SPTVN1PROD with NOTICES Provision Description No Action Alternative Grasslands Eligibility and Authorized Activities .. Final Year Contract ............................................. VerDate Sep<11>2014 16:53 Jun 17, 2015 Jkt 235001 Allows up to 2 million acres of certain grasslands to be eligible for CRP under Continuous Sign-up. Authorized activities differ from other CRP contracts. Allows enrollment in Conservation Stewardship Program and the Agricultural Conservation Easement Program during final year of the CRP contract. PO 00000 Frm 00006 Fmt 4703 Sfmt 4703 E:\FR\FM\18JNN1.SGM 18JNN1 Federal Register / Vol. 80, No. 117 / Thursday, June 18, 2015 / Notices 34885 PROPOSED CHANGES TO CRP—Continued Provision Description Emergency Haying and Grazing Payment Reduction. Removes the requirement to reduce CRP rental payments. Proposed Action Targeted Enrollment ........................................... Managed harvesting Frequency ......................... Routine Grazing Frequency ................................ Emergency Haying and Grazing on Additional Conservation Practices. Public Involvement Public involvement began with the notice announcing a ‘‘Notice of Intent to Prepare a Programmatic Supplemental Environmental Impact Statement for the Conservation Reserve Program: Request for Comments’’ published in the Federal Register on November 29, 2013 (78 FR 71561–71562). A Web site developed to compile comments for the project was activated on the day the Notice of Intent was released and the official scoping comment period began. Comments were received through the project Web site, email system, mail, fax, and at www.regulations.gov. The scoping period ended January 13, 2014. Eight comment letters were received during the scoping period from Federal, state, Proposes the targeted enrollment of environmentally sensitive lands through reverse auctions or competitive bidding to meet reduced enrollment caps. Sets minimum frequency of once in 5 years, and maximum frequency of once in 3 years. Sets maximum frequency to no more than once every 2 years. Allows emergency haying and grazing on additional CPs during severe drought conditions to include CP8 (grass waterways), CP21 (filter strips), CP22 (riparian buffers), CP23 (wetland restoration), CP23A (wetland restoration, non-floodplain), CP27 (farmable wetlands), CP28 (farmable wetland buffers), CP37 (duck nesting habitat), CP39 (constructed wetland), and CP41 (Flooded prairie farmable wetlands). and local government agencies, as well as from private organizations and members of the concerned public. The comments could be broken into 55 individual issues covering a range of topics including proposed 2008 Farm Bill changes, CRP maximum enrollment and acreages, regional differences in haying and grazing impacts, lack of thorough environmental and socioeconomic impact analysis in previous environmental analysis documentation related to the Farm Bill, and CRP funding policy. The comments provided during the scoping period were considered in defining the alternatives and the environmental consequences to ensure feedback was adequately addressed. A notice announcing the availability of the Draft SPEIS was published in the Federal Register on July 15, 2014 (79 FR 41247–41249). This notice of availability (NOA) provided a summary of the changes to CRP, the No Action Alternative, and the Proposed Action Alternative. Also included in the NOA was a description of how to provide comments, as well as a list of the dates, times, and locations of the five public meetings that were held as a part of the public involvement process. Locations for holding public meetings were chosen based upon FSA density analyses of participation in CRP or those participants potentially impacted by the proposed changes to CRP. The meeting locations, dates, and times are shown in the table below. Time Location information July 21, 2014 ....................... 6:00 p.m.–8:00 p.m ............ July 22, 2014 ....................... August 4, 2014 ..................... 6:00 p.m.–8:00 p.m ............ 6:00 p.m.–8:00 p.m ............ August 5, 2014 ..................... August 6, 2014 ..................... tkelley on DSK3SPTVN1PROD with NOTICES Date 6:00 p.m.–8:00 p.m ............ 6:00 p.m.–8:00 p.m ............ Hilton Garden Inn, Spokane Airport, 9015 West SR Highway 2, Spokane, Washington 99224. Holiday Inn, Great Falls, 1100 5th Street, South Falls, Montana 59405. Plains Cotton Cooperative Association, 3301 East 50th Street, Lubbock, Texas 79404. Stillwater Library, 1107 S. Duck Street, Stillwater, Oklahoma 74074. Courtyard by Marriott and Moorhead Area Conference Center, 1080 28th Avenue, South, Moorhead, Minnesota 56560. Eighteen comments were received during the Draft SPEIS comment period. Those 18 comments included 75 issues to be considered in the Final SPEIS. A Comment Summary Report was prepared and is included as an appendix in the CRP SPEIS. The report provides additional detail on the Draft SPEIS comment process, a copy of the NOA, copies of all public meeting materials, and responses to all 75 substantive issues and how they were addressed in the Final SPEIS. The NOA of the Final SPEIS was published in the Federal Register on December 23, 2014 (79 FR 76952). A total of six comment letters or emails VerDate Sep<11>2014 16:53 Jun 17, 2015 Jkt 235001 were received during the 30 day comment period. The comments could be broken down to 12 individual comments. The comments were primarily repetitive of concerns addressed during the Draft SPEIS and included grassland eligibility requirements, targeted enrollment, and emergency haying and grazing of additional CPs. Those comments were considered in the decision-making process. Impacts Summary The Final SPEIS evaluates the potential impacts of the Proposed Action. Based upon the analyses and PO 00000 Frm 00007 Fmt 4703 Sfmt 4703 conclusions presented in the Draft and Final SPEISs, FSA has determined that the Proposed Action is environmentally responsible and reasonable to implement, and no significant negative impacts would occur. Anticipated beneficial and adverse impacts are discussed below for each of the elements of the Proposed Action. Targeted Enrollment CRP establishes or restores vegetation to meet the CRP goals of improving surface water and groundwater quality, controlling soil erosion, and enhancing wildlife habitat. Enrolling land in CRP would be expected to benefit vegetation, E:\FR\FM\18JNN1.SGM 18JNN1 34886 Federal Register / Vol. 80, No. 117 / Thursday, June 18, 2015 / Notices tkelley on DSK3SPTVN1PROD with NOTICES wildlife, and protected species as sensitive lands or those with higher environmental benefits could be targeted. Soils, surface and groundwater, wetlands, and floodplains would benefit similarly and would also be positively impacted by reduced fertilizer and pesticide usage and lower demands on groundwater for irrigation. Recreation related to wildlife would be expected to benefit from targeting environmentally sensitive areas that benefit wildlife and habitats and surface water quality on and adjacent to CRP lands. Air quality would benefit from enrollment in CRP through reduced emissions from equipment, greater soil stability, and increased potential for long-term carbon sequestration as compared to typical agricultural production. No effect to socioeconomic conditions is anticipated to result from use of targeted enrollment; however, general social benefits from conservation would be realized. Overall, it is expected that using targeted enrollment could increase the quality of lands enrolled in CRP, resulting in greater environmental benefits. Targeted enrollment could provide long-term benefits to areas of sensitive vegetative communities, wildlife habitat, or water quality. Such benefits could occur throughout the U.S. in any ecoregion where targeting occurred. Installation and maintenance of CPs could create temporary, short-term negative impacts while the work was ongoing to resources, including vegetation, wildlife, protected species, soils, surface and groundwater, floodplains, wetlands, and air quality. However, all activities would be specified in Conservation Plans, designed by NRCS, which reflect local conditions and needs for each tract of land enrolled. Once CPs are established, long-term beneficial impacts to resources would be realized. Managed Harvesting and Routine Grazing Frequencies Managed harvesting would be allowed to occur no more frequently than once every 3 years, but not less frequently than once in 5 years. This would require four states (California, Colorado, Arizona, and Nevada) that currently allow managed harvesting once every 10 years to have more frequent managed harvesting on new contracts where managed harvesting would be used to maintain CRP. The 2014 Farm Bill allows for the State Technical Committees (STCs) to establish routine grazing frequencies of not more than once every 2 years. More frequent harvesting and grazing could reduce the growing period between VerDate Sep<11>2014 16:53 Jun 17, 2015 Jkt 235001 harvests, which may cause short-term negative impacts to some types of vegetation, potentially affecting wildlife habitat, soil stability, and any adjacent wetlands, floodplains, or surface waters. Activities with direct impacts would vary by ecoregion and species composition. Long-term benefits of harvesting and grazing include maintaining early succession stages, and improving species diversity, composition, and function. Wildlife adapted to early successional habitats could benefit from more frequent harvesting and grazing. Grazing could negatively affect wildlife through displacement or competition for food resources. Both grazing and haying could result in direct mortality to some wildlife species. Protected species are not expected to be affected as site specific Environmental Evaluations on Conservation Plans would determine the presence of protected species and ensure no impacts occur. No effects to groundwater, air quality, recreation, or socioeconomic resources are anticipated. When performed in accordance with established guidelines, managed harvesting can be an effective tool for maintaining early successional stages of vegetative communities. Emergency Haying and Grazing on Additional CP Consecutive years of emergency haying or grazing on the same acreage would reduce the growth period and could result in long-term negative impacts to some types of vegetation, in turn affecting wildlife. Impacts to wildlife could also include direct mortality and competition for food resources. No impacts to protected species are expected due to use of sitespecific Environmental Evaluations. As with managed harvesting and routine grazing, short-term impacts to soils could occur from reduced vegetation growth affecting the stability of soils. Short-term impacts to surface waters, floodplains, and wetlands could occur from increased runoff, however, adherence to site-specific NRCS Conservation Plans and oversight by STC would reduce the potential for long-term impacts to these resources. No impacts to groundwater are anticipated. In the short-term, consecutive years of emergency haying and grazing could reduce the carbon sequestration potential of CRP vegetation. Socioeconomic benefits would result from enabling producers to maintain herds during severe droughts. Rationale for Decision No significant impacts would occur from implementation of the Proposed PO 00000 Frm 00008 Fmt 4703 Sfmt 4703 Action and no significant adverse cumulative impacts are expected. Potential negative impacts will be minimized by employment of best management practices specified in Conservation Plans and through the use of site-specific Environmental Evaluations. Val Dolcini, Administrator, Farm Service Agency, and Executive Vice President, Commodity Credit Corporation. [FR Doc. 2015–14988 Filed 6–17–15; 8:45 am] BILLING CODE 3410–05–P DEPARTMENT OF AGRICULTURE Forest Service Land Between The Lakes Advisory Board Forest Service, USDA. Notice of meeting. AGENCY: ACTION: The Land Between The Lakes Advisory Board (Board) will meet in Golden Pond, Kentucky. The Board is authorized under Section 450 of the Land Between The Lakes Protection Act of 1998 (Act) and operates in compliance with the Federal Advisory Committee Act. The purpose of the Board is to advise the Secretary of Agriculutre on the means of promoting public participation for the land and resource management plan for the recreation area; and environmental education. Additional Board information, including the meeting agenda and the meeting summary/ minutes can be found at the following Web site: http:// www.landbetweenthelakes.us/about/ working-together/. DATES: The meeting will be held on Wednesday, July 22, 2015. All Board meetings are subject to cancellation. For status of meeting prior to attendance, please contact the person listed under FOR FURTHER INFORMATION CONTACT. SUMMARY: The meeting will be held at the Land Between The Lakes Administration Building, 100 Van Morgran Drive, Golden Pond, Kentucky. Written comments may be submitted as described under SUPPLEMENTARY INFORMATION. All comments, including names and addresses when provided, are placed in the record and are available for public inspection and copying. The public may inspect comments received at Land Between The Lakes Adminstrative Building. Please call ahead to facilitate entry into the building. ADDRESSES: E:\FR\FM\18JNN1.SGM 18JNN1

Agencies

[Federal Register Volume 80, Number 117 (Thursday, June 18, 2015)]
[Notices]
[Pages 34883-34886]
From the Federal Register Online via the Government Publishing Office [www.gpo.gov]
[FR Doc No: 2015-14988]


-----------------------------------------------------------------------

DEPARTMENT OF AGRICULTURE

Commodity Credit Corporation

Farm Service Agency


Conservation Reserve Program

AGENCY: Commodity Credit Corporation, Farm Service Agency, USDA.

ACTION: Record of decision.

-----------------------------------------------------------------------

SUMMARY: This notice presents a summary of the Record of Decision (ROD) 
regarding the alternative selected for implementation from the 
Supplemental Programmatic Environmental Impact Statement (SPEIS) for 
the Conservation Reserve Program (CRP). CRP is a voluntary program that 
supports the implementation of long-term conservation measures designed 
to improve the quality of ground and surface waters, control soil 
erosion, and enhance wildlife habitat on environmentally sensitive 
agricultural land. The Farm Service Agency (FSA) administers CRP on 
behalf of the Commodity Credit Corporation (CCC). The ROD was signed on 
April 17, 2015, but will not be implemented for at least 30 days 
following publication of this notice.

DATES: Effective Date: July 20, 2015.

ADDRESSES: The CRP SPEIS, including appendices and this ROD, are 
available on the FSA Environmental Compliance Web site at: http://www.fsa.usda.gov/FSA/webapp?area=home&subject=ecrc&topic=ep-cd. More 
detailed information on CRP is available from FSA's Web site at: http://www.fsa.usda.gov/FSA/webapp?area=home&subject=copr&topic=crp.
    Requests for copies of the Final SPEIS and this ROD may be obtained 
from Nell Fuller at Nell.Fuller@wdc.usda.gov, or mail, Nell Fuller, 
USDA FSA, Mail Stop 0501, 1400 Independence Ave. SW., Washington, DC 
20250-0501.

FOR FURTHER INFORMATION CONTACT: Nell Fuller, National Environmental 
Compliance Manager; phone: (202) 720-6853.

SUPPLEMENTARY INFORMATION:

Background

    FSA prepared a Final SPEIS for CRP and a Notice of Availability was 
published in the Federal Register on December 23, 2014. On behalf of 
the CCC, FSA provides CRP participants with rental payments and cost-
share assistance under contracts that extend from 10 to 15 years. CCC 
funding for CRP is governed by acreage caps set by the Agricultural Act 
of 2014, Public Law 113-79 (2014 Farm Bill). Technical support is 
provided by:
     USDA Natural Resources Conservation Service;
     USDA National Institute for Food and Agriculture;
     U.S. Forest Service;
     State forestry agencies;
     Local soil and water conservation districts; and
     Other non-federal providers of technical assistance.
    Producers can enroll in CRP using one of two procedures:
    (1) Offer lands for General Sign-up enrollment during specific 
sign-up periods and compete with other offers nationally, based upon 
the Environmental Benefits Index; or
    (2) Enroll environmentally desirable land to be devoted to certain 
conservation practices (CPs) under CRP Continuous Sign-up provisions, 
if certain eligibility requirements are met, or by enrolling eligible 
land under the Conservation Reserve Enhancement Program (CREP), a 
federal-state partnership under CRP.
    As of September 2014, there were nearly 25.5 million acres enrolled 
in the

[[Page 34884]]

CRP: 19.7 million acres under General Sign-up and 5.7 million acres 
under Continuous Sign-up, including 1.3 million acres in CREP and 0.3 
million acres in the Farmable Wetlands Program, a program under CRP.
    Under the Proposed Action, as defined in the SPEIS, FSA would 
implement changes to the CRP resulting from the 2014 Farm Bill, which 
extends the enrollment authority for the CRP to 2018, as well as other 
discretionary measures designed to improve the functionality and 
conservation benefits of CRP. The CRP SPEIS tiers from the CRP 
Supplemental Environmental Impact Statement and associated ROD 
completed in 2010. The SPEIS analyzed the impacts associated with 
implementing the changes to CRP and in developing new regulations. The 
No Action Alternative (continuation of current CRP to include those 
non-discretionary changes required by the 2014 Farm Bill) was also 
analyzed, and provides a management and environmental baseline.

The Decision

    After reviewing comments from interested individuals and other 
State and Federal agencies, FSA decided to implement changes to CRP 
resulting from the 2014 Farm Bill, which extends the enrollment 
authority for CRP to 2018, and discretionary measures designed to 
improve the functionality and conservation benefits of CRP, as well as 
other changes described in the Proposed Action, with one exception and 
one clarification. The exception is that authorizing emergency haying 
or grazing on CP 25, ``Rare and Declining Habitat,'' during severe 
drought conditions will not be implemented. This decision was made 
after comparing the overall environmental impacts and other relevant 
information, including feedback received, with regard to the reasonable 
alternatives considered in the CRP SPEIS. The clarification was that 
FSA intends to use Primary Nesting Season (PNS) provisions that are 
currently in place to clarify the language provided in the 2014 Farm 
Bill for birds that are economically significant, in significant 
decline, or conserved in accordance with Federal or State law (see 16 
U.S.C. 3833(b)(5)(B)). FSA will continue to work with the U.S. Fish and 
Wildlife Service to address any need to amend PNS dates. The following 
briefly describes the purpose and need for the proposed programmatic 
changes and the alternatives considered.

Purpose and Need for the Proposed Action

    The purpose of the Proposed Action is to implement programmatic 
changes to the CRP resulting from the 2014 Farm Bill and other 
discretionary program provisions. The need for the Proposed Action is 
to fulfill the FSA's responsibility to administer CRP while improving 
CRP's functionality and maintaining its conservation benefits.

Alternatives Considered

    Some elements of the 2014 Farm Bill are non-discretionary, meaning 
implementation is mandatory and specifically required by the 2014 Farm 
Bill. As FSA has no decision-making authority over these non-
discretionary aspects of the 2014 Farm Bill, they are assessed in the 
SPEIS as part of the No Action Alternative. Other elements of the 2014 
Farm Bill provide overall guidance, but details of implementation are 
left to FSA's discretion. These discretionary aspects of the 2014 Farm 
Bill form the Proposed Action Alternative. In addition, as described in 
the Proposed Action Alternative, FSA proposes to implement additional 
discretionary measures for targeting enrollment and to expand the 
flexibility of emergency haying and grazing.

Overview of Changes to CRP From the 2014 Farm Bill

    The changes in the 2014 Farm Bill that are administrative in 
nature, would not result in major changes to the administration of CRP, 
or have been addressed in other environmental assessments and 
eliminated from detailed analysis, are described in the first table. A 
summary of the proposed changes to CRP and how the changes are 
addressed in the SPEIS as part of the No Action Alternative or Proposed 
Action Alternative are described in the second table.

                       List From Detailed Analysis
------------------------------------------------------------------------
          Provision                           Description
------------------------------------------------------------------------
Maximum Enrollment...........  Reduces maximum enrollment gradually from
                                32 to 24 million acres by fiscal year
                                2017.
Farmable Wetlands Program....  Creates a permanent program from the
                                pilot program established by 2008 Farm
                                Bill and sets enrollment cap at 750,000
                                acres.
Tree Thinning................  Reduces payment authority to $10 million,
                                allows for incentive payments.
Early Termination of           Provides contract termination opportunity
 Contracts.                     in 2015 for contracts that have been in
                                place for at least 5 years, with
                                exceptions.
Managed Harvesting,            Requires rental payment reduction of at
 Prescribed and Routine         least 25 percent. No payment reduction
 Grazing Payment Reduction.     for beginning farmers or ranchers for
                                grazing.
Transition Option............  Provides authority for $33 million to
                                facilitate transfer of land from
                                retiring or retired owners to beginning
                                or socially disadvantaged farmers or
                                ranchers, or military veteran farmers or
                                ranchers.
Prescribed Grazing Frequency.  Allows annual grazing for control of
                                invasive plants.
Intermittent and Seasonal Use  Allows for intermittent and seasonal use
                                of vegetative buffer practices
                                incidental to agricultural production on
                                adjacent lands.
------------------------------------------------------------------------


                         Proposed Changes to CRP
------------------------------------------------------------------------
          Provision                           Description
------------------------------------------------------------------------
                          No Action Alternative
------------------------------------------------------------------------
Grasslands Eligibility and     Allows up to 2 million acres of certain
 Authorized Activities.         grasslands to be eligible for CRP under
                                Continuous Sign-up. Authorized
                                activities differ from other CRP
                                contracts.
Final Year Contract..........  Allows enrollment in Conservation
                                Stewardship Program and the Agricultural
                                Conservation Easement Program during
                                final year of the CRP contract.

[[Page 34885]]

 
Emergency Haying and Grazing   Removes the requirement to reduce CRP
 Payment Reduction.             rental payments.
------------------------------------------------------------------------
                             Proposed Action
------------------------------------------------------------------------
Targeted Enrollment..........  Proposes the targeted enrollment of
                                environmentally sensitive lands through
                                reverse auctions or competitive bidding
                                to meet reduced enrollment caps.
Managed harvesting Frequency.  Sets minimum frequency of once in 5
                                years, and maximum frequency of once in
                                3 years.
Routine Grazing Frequency....  Sets maximum frequency to no more than
                                once every 2 years.
Emergency Haying and Grazing   Allows emergency haying and grazing on
 on Additional Conservation     additional CPs during severe drought
 Practices.                     conditions to include CP8 (grass
                                waterways), CP21 (filter strips), CP22
                                (riparian buffers), CP23 (wetland
                                restoration), CP23A (wetland
                                restoration, non-floodplain), CP27
                                (farmable wetlands), CP28 (farmable
                                wetland buffers), CP37 (duck nesting
                                habitat), CP39 (constructed wetland),
                                and CP41 (Flooded prairie farmable
                                wetlands).
------------------------------------------------------------------------

Public Involvement

    Public involvement began with the notice announcing a ``Notice of 
Intent to Prepare a Programmatic Supplemental Environmental Impact 
Statement for the Conservation Reserve Program: Request for Comments'' 
published in the Federal Register on November 29, 2013 (78 FR 71561-
71562). A Web site developed to compile comments for the project was 
activated on the day the Notice of Intent was released and the official 
scoping comment period began. Comments were received through the 
project Web site, email system, mail, fax, and at www.regulations.gov. 
The scoping period ended January 13, 2014. Eight comment letters were 
received during the scoping period from Federal, state, and local 
government agencies, as well as from private organizations and members 
of the concerned public. The comments could be broken into 55 
individual issues covering a range of topics including proposed 2008 
Farm Bill changes, CRP maximum enrollment and acreages, regional 
differences in haying and grazing impacts, lack of thorough 
environmental and socioeconomic impact analysis in previous 
environmental analysis documentation related to the Farm Bill, and CRP 
funding policy. The comments provided during the scoping period were 
considered in defining the alternatives and the environmental 
consequences to ensure feedback was adequately addressed.
    A notice announcing the availability of the Draft SPEIS was 
published in the Federal Register on July 15, 2014 (79 FR 41247-41249). 
This notice of availability (NOA) provided a summary of the changes to 
CRP, the No Action Alternative, and the Proposed Action Alternative. 
Also included in the NOA was a description of how to provide comments, 
as well as a list of the dates, times, and locations of the five public 
meetings that were held as a part of the public involvement process. 
Locations for holding public meetings were chosen based upon FSA 
density analyses of participation in CRP or those participants 
potentially impacted by the proposed changes to CRP. The meeting 
locations, dates, and times are shown in the table below.

----------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------
                  Date                                Time                        Location information
----------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------
July 21, 2014...........................  6:00 p.m.-8:00 p.m.........  Hilton Garden Inn, Spokane Airport, 9015
                                                                        West SR Highway 2, Spokane, Washington
                                                                        99224.
July 22, 2014...........................  6:00 p.m.-8:00 p.m.........  Holiday Inn, Great Falls, 1100 5th
                                                                        Street, South Falls, Montana 59405.
August 4, 2014..........................  6:00 p.m.-8:00 p.m.........  Plains Cotton Cooperative Association,
                                                                        3301 East 50th Street, Lubbock, Texas
                                                                        79404.
August 5, 2014..........................  6:00 p.m.-8:00 p.m.........  Stillwater Library, 1107 S. Duck Street,
                                                                        Stillwater, Oklahoma 74074.
August 6, 2014..........................  6:00 p.m.-8:00 p.m.........  Courtyard by Marriott and Moorhead Area
                                                                        Conference Center, 1080 28th Avenue,
                                                                        South, Moorhead, Minnesota 56560.
----------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------

    Eighteen comments were received during the Draft SPEIS comment 
period. Those 18 comments included 75 issues to be considered in the 
Final SPEIS. A Comment Summary Report was prepared and is included as 
an appendix in the CRP SPEIS. The report provides additional detail on 
the Draft SPEIS comment process, a copy of the NOA, copies of all 
public meeting materials, and responses to all 75 substantive issues 
and how they were addressed in the Final SPEIS.
    The NOA of the Final SPEIS was published in the Federal Register on 
December 23, 2014 (79 FR 76952). A total of six comment letters or 
emails were received during the 30 day comment period. The comments 
could be broken down to 12 individual comments. The comments were 
primarily repetitive of concerns addressed during the Draft SPEIS and 
included grassland eligibility requirements, targeted enrollment, and 
emergency haying and grazing of additional CPs. Those comments were 
considered in the decision-making process.

Impacts Summary

    The Final SPEIS evaluates the potential impacts of the Proposed 
Action. Based upon the analyses and conclusions presented in the Draft 
and Final SPEISs, FSA has determined that the Proposed Action is 
environmentally responsible and reasonable to implement, and no 
significant negative impacts would occur. Anticipated beneficial and 
adverse impacts are discussed below for each of the elements of the 
Proposed Action.

Targeted Enrollment

    CRP establishes or restores vegetation to meet the CRP goals of 
improving surface water and groundwater quality, controlling soil 
erosion, and enhancing wildlife habitat. Enrolling land in CRP would be 
expected to benefit vegetation,

[[Page 34886]]

wildlife, and protected species as sensitive lands or those with higher 
environmental benefits could be targeted. Soils, surface and 
groundwater, wetlands, and floodplains would benefit similarly and 
would also be positively impacted by reduced fertilizer and pesticide 
usage and lower demands on groundwater for irrigation. Recreation 
related to wildlife would be expected to benefit from targeting 
environmentally sensitive areas that benefit wildlife and habitats and 
surface water quality on and adjacent to CRP lands. Air quality would 
benefit from enrollment in CRP through reduced emissions from 
equipment, greater soil stability, and increased potential for long-
term carbon sequestration as compared to typical agricultural 
production. No effect to socioeconomic conditions is anticipated to 
result from use of targeted enrollment; however, general social 
benefits from conservation would be realized. Overall, it is expected 
that using targeted enrollment could increase the quality of lands 
enrolled in CRP, resulting in greater environmental benefits. Targeted 
enrollment could provide long-term benefits to areas of sensitive 
vegetative communities, wildlife habitat, or water quality. Such 
benefits could occur throughout the U.S. in any ecoregion where 
targeting occurred.
    Installation and maintenance of CPs could create temporary, short-
term negative impacts while the work was ongoing to resources, 
including vegetation, wildlife, protected species, soils, surface and 
groundwater, floodplains, wetlands, and air quality. However, all 
activities would be specified in Conservation Plans, designed by NRCS, 
which reflect local conditions and needs for each tract of land 
enrolled. Once CPs are established, long-term beneficial impacts to 
resources would be realized.

Managed Harvesting and Routine Grazing Frequencies

    Managed harvesting would be allowed to occur no more frequently 
than once every 3 years, but not less frequently than once in 5 years. 
This would require four states (California, Colorado, Arizona, and 
Nevada) that currently allow managed harvesting once every 10 years to 
have more frequent managed harvesting on new contracts where managed 
harvesting would be used to maintain CRP. The 2014 Farm Bill allows for 
the State Technical Committees (STCs) to establish routine grazing 
frequencies of not more than once every 2 years. More frequent 
harvesting and grazing could reduce the growing period between 
harvests, which may cause short-term negative impacts to some types of 
vegetation, potentially affecting wildlife habitat, soil stability, and 
any adjacent wetlands, floodplains, or surface waters. Activities with 
direct impacts would vary by ecoregion and species composition. Long-
term benefits of harvesting and grazing include maintaining early 
succession stages, and improving species diversity, composition, and 
function. Wildlife adapted to early successional habitats could benefit 
from more frequent harvesting and grazing. Grazing could negatively 
affect wildlife through displacement or competition for food resources. 
Both grazing and haying could result in direct mortality to some 
wildlife species. Protected species are not expected to be affected as 
site specific Environmental Evaluations on Conservation Plans would 
determine the presence of protected species and ensure no impacts 
occur. No effects to groundwater, air quality, recreation, or 
socioeconomic resources are anticipated. When performed in accordance 
with established guidelines, managed harvesting can be an effective 
tool for maintaining early successional stages of vegetative 
communities.

Emergency Haying and Grazing on Additional CP

    Consecutive years of emergency haying or grazing on the same 
acreage would reduce the growth period and could result in long-term 
negative impacts to some types of vegetation, in turn affecting 
wildlife. Impacts to wildlife could also include direct mortality and 
competition for food resources. No impacts to protected species are 
expected due to use of site-specific Environmental Evaluations. As with 
managed harvesting and routine grazing, short-term impacts to soils 
could occur from reduced vegetation growth affecting the stability of 
soils. Short-term impacts to surface waters, floodplains, and wetlands 
could occur from increased runoff, however, adherence to site-specific 
NRCS Conservation Plans and oversight by STC would reduce the potential 
for long-term impacts to these resources. No impacts to groundwater are 
anticipated. In the short-term, consecutive years of emergency haying 
and grazing could reduce the carbon sequestration potential of CRP 
vegetation. Socioeconomic benefits would result from enabling producers 
to maintain herds during severe droughts.

Rationale for Decision

    No significant impacts would occur from implementation of the 
Proposed Action and no significant adverse cumulative impacts are 
expected. Potential negative impacts will be minimized by employment of 
best management practices specified in Conservation Plans and through 
the use of site-specific Environmental Evaluations.

Val Dolcini,
Administrator, Farm Service Agency, and Executive Vice President, 
Commodity Credit Corporation.
[FR Doc. 2015-14988 Filed 6-17-15; 8:45 am]
BILLING CODE 3410-05-P